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It's all coming together

I've just gotten an email from the USCA offering me a large single in Hillegass/Parker House for the summer (please god let me keep it in the fall...).  So this is where I'll be living, at least for the summer.  I have begun online reconnaissance of appropriately sited yarn stores.

Pound Cake

Via Ravelry, I found Phoenix's glorious blog entry on pound cake.

Pound cake was one of my very favorite things as a child, especially home baked.  I, too, share her horror that people try to pass of angel cake (or worse, 'diet cake' and variations thereof) as pound cake.  This is a sin.  Follow her recipe for proper pound cake in all its fabulousness.  I might add in a little more vanilla and orange or lemon zest.

“Light” pound cake will never be superior to pound cake. The sun does not rise in the west and set in the east. Fish do not live in the sky and birds do not live in the sea. Bears do not crap in toilets. There are laws and rules and some things just ain’t changing. Pound cake needs a pound of stuff. Call it love if you want. Just so long as you put it in the cake. 

Race, class, and country music

The Gristmill today pointed me in the direction of 'One Nation, Under Elvis', an article by Rebecca Solnit.  It is, essentially, an article about the current 'culture wars' in the US, which is less a war than a massive childish spat between groups of people who all think they're better than everyone else.

Says Solnit,

"Grubby, furry, childless pseudo-nomads who could screw up all they wanted and live hand to mouth until something went wrong and the long arm of middle-class parents reached out to rescue them scorned the tough economic choices of people with kids, mortgages, and no bail-out plan or white-collar options. Some of them did great things for trees, but their approach wasn’t always, to say the least, coalition-building. It also wasn’t ubiquitous. There were some broad-minded people in the movement, and some who even hailed from these rural and poor cultures, and Earth First! always had a self-proclaimed redneck contingent—but the scorn was widespread enough to be a major problem. And it seemed to be part of the reason why a lot of rural people despise environmentalists."

This is not to say there isn't a lot of narrow-minded hate directed at earnest lefty tree-huggers, which is just as bad as the long-standing joke that everyone in between the coasts is Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel*.  But the environmental movement has spent the last 100 years waiting for people to come to us.  Time to climb down from the high horses and go to other people for a change.  Solnit also points out something that I think ALL justice-minded greenies (particularly in America) need to remember every day:

"The Sierra Club, which Muir cofounded with a group of University of California professors in 1892, saw nature as not where one lived or worked but where one vacationed. And traditional American environmentalism still largely imagines nature as vacationland and as wilderness, ignoring the working landscapes and agricultural lands, whose beauties and meanings are widely celebrated in European art."

In other words, this is fundamentally a class issue. Deep in the American environmental psyche is the idea that people and nature are somehow separate, and that more importantly only 'wild' land is 'natural'.  But humans are animals too, and have their part to play in natural cycles of environmental management.  The trick is to live in our environment responsibly, to restrain our pine-beetleish tendedncies to overwhelm and exhaust the resources available to us. Responsible ranchers, farmers, and loggers have been doing this for millennia, and we urban environmentalists have a lot to learn from that.  As long as people in cities - particularly rich people who drive their Range Rovers to rustic inns in the mountains - see the people who actually work the land, and love it as a livelihood, as unworthy, we're never going to solve our common problems.

* Although I would like to point out that I have actually seen Cletus, but that's another story.

we are now bourgeois capitalists

Last weekend Matt and I cleaned and decluttered the flat from top to bottom, which involved four full days of sorting and packing and scrubbing and moving and recycling. And a trip to Ikea. Why?

We wanted it to look nice for the pictures.

election blues

Okay, so on Tuesday I went to cast my vote in the Democrats Abroad primary at Portchester Hall in London. The problem was, I was having a massive moral crisis. I was an undecided voter, for the first time in my entire life (and yes, this includes casting a vote for Dukakis in my school's mock election in 1988 and crying when Bush won).

Since Edwards dropped out (and this Krugman column made me cry), I've had a hard time getting excited about the Democratic primary. This isn't just out of character, it's out of keeping with the massive turnouts recorded all over the states which (I assume) means that heaps of other people are terribly thrilled. It's a strange combination of disillusionment, apathy, and indecision that I've never experenced before. Between Obamania and the Hillarybot, who the hell am I going to vote for?

Yes, Obama's very charismatic and a spectacular public speaker. But in terms of policies, he's a well-cut empty suit. Without mandates, his healthcare plan is worthless and will leave half the uninsured still out in the cold. Hillary's plan doesn't do this, but she might destroy the Democratic party. Obama seems to be uniting progressives all over the US but at the same time I'm a little bit creeped out and turned off my his cult of personality. On the other hand, my gut feeling tells me he might be more electable, because so many people (irrationally) hate Hillary. My feminist gut tells me that this is because America is more antifeminist than it is racist, and that a lot of people hate her more for being a strong, intelligent woman in politics than because of her policies (many of which I still find uncool, such as her early support for the Iraq war). Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

So I voted my conscience: I decided not to decide. I'll obviously fight hard for whomever wins the popularity contest nomination, and until then Edwards has my protest vote.

Sez Bob Herbert: "The presidential candidates don’t seem to be rising to the nation’s many crucial challenges with the sense of urgency and the creative vision that is called for. Not yet, at least."

Meanwhile, I've joined Ravelry and am knitting like a fiend. It's nice to have a second hobby when your first one depresses you. I'm slightly alarmed that I've only been on there three days and i've already caught a very subtle Little Women reference in the forums and queued up more than 10 new patterns I want to try. And, of course, I've already found someone who knitted their own Obama hat.
Okay, in the past week I've been running across what seems to be story after story about animal cruelty.  Take, for example, today's article about the Ministry of Defence ending goat testing on submarines.  WHAT? We've been giving goats the bends? For how long? Why is my taxpayer money funding this?

There was also a great New York Times story about rehabilitating the dogs that were rescued from Michael Vick's pitbull fighting ring.  The scale of the abuse is just mind-blowing - including one who had all her teeth pulled out so she could be forcibly mated with other dogs. I just can't imagine how people can do this to other critters; it's such a small step between animal abuse and sociopathy.  At least a lot of them have loving new homes with places like Best Friends Shelter and BADRAP.

Finally, in a somewhat perverse example of animals gettin' their own back, a number of workers in a pork processing facility have picked up an obscure and debilitating neurological illness from - you guessed it - aerosolized pig brains. Okay, you probably didn't guess that. Also, you might feel like barfing. I know I do. 

ETA: I forgot to add a link to the story of Puddles who rose from the dead as Panchito. Which goes to show that sometimes people love animals a little too much.

bagsnatcher part II

So, as it happens, my bag was found. The nice dudes working at the train station (next door to the pub where the bag was stolen) called me, and I went to pick it up. The thief had dashed down into a quiet spot in the station, ransacked the bag, grabbed my iPod, and dumped the bag behind a fence in a kitchen midden-y type area covered in trash and used needles (yep, not using that bag again). So, in the end I got my keys back, and my mittens and hat. And the iPod is insured, so in theory I'm getting it back. Yay! And I still have an excuse to buy a shiny new handbag. Here's hoping I find one with similarly excellent pockets.

damn you, bagsnatcher!

So there I was, in the pub, having a wonderfully pleasant dinner with Alison and my friend Ariana who is visiting from Boston, when a dodgy-looking guy brushes past our table. A split second later I check for my bag and it's gone. In the couple of seconds it took me to realize that my bag was, yes, definitely gone, the guy had ducked into the toilets, ducked out, and dashed out the door with my bag. RIchard the barman went after him but it was too late, he was gone. He'd clearly had an eye on the table and my bag for some time. By the super-duper hand of god, I had taken my wallet and phone out and put them on the table, so I still had them and wasn't too upset. I lost my gloves and hat, but Branislava knitted me a gorgeous birthday hat, so once again the gods seemed to be smiling.

All my keys were gone though, and soon enough i realized that I had left a birthday card in my bag with my London address on it. D'oh #1. We've got to change the locks. Now, as I'm going to bed, I've discovered that I can't find my iPod. It's exactly the kind of thing I throw in my bag every morning without thinking, so even though I haven't used it today I've probably been carrying it around with me. And now dodgy trench coat man is carrying it around with him. D'oh #2. And finally, I can't find my USB drive. I'm much more upset about the 'kyoto now' lanyard it used to hang on, because that's a memento from Bali - but there was loads of personal stuff on it. D'oh #3. That's the locks in Oxford need changing, then. And loads of my personal info wandering through the world.


bali policy outcomes

Okay, for everyone who said to me "but wasn't Bali just a washout, anyway? Nothing really happened."

Yes, the overall declaration was watered down. But this post from global deal is a really good summary of the policy wins in Bali, showing how promising the Bali groundwork could be.